Thursday, June 30, 2011

75 bible sayings

Terrific little list from of expressions that came from the KJV
1. Genesis 4:2-5: can't get blood from a turnip
2. Genesis 7: don't miss the boat
3. Genesis 11:7-9: babbling
4. Genesis 15:5: teller
5. Genesis 43:34: mess (of food)
6. Exodus 19:16-18: holy smoke
7. Exodus 28:42: britches
8. Exodus 32:8: holy cow
9. Leviticus 2:14: roast ears
10. Leviticus 13:10: the quick (raw flesh)
11. Leviticus 14:5-6: running water
12. Leviticus 16:8: scapegoat
13. Leviticus 25:10: Liberty Bell
14. Numbers 21:5: light bread
15. Numbers 35:2-5: suburb
16. Deuteronomy 2:14: wasted him
17. Deuteronomy 24:5: cheer up
18. Deuteronomy 32:10: apple of his eye
19. Judges 5:20: star wars
20. Judges 7:5-12: under dog
21. Judges 8:16: teach a lesson
22. Judges 17:10: calling a priest father
23. I Samuel 14:12: I'll show you a thing or two
24. I Samuel 20:40: artillery
25. I Samuel 25:37: petrified
26. II Samuel 19:18: ferry boat
27. I Kings 3:7: don't know if he's coming or going
28. I Kings 14:3: cracklins
29. I Kings 14:6: that's heavy
30. I Kings 21:19-23: she's gone to the dogs
31. II Chronicles 9:6: you haven't heard half of it
32. II Chronicles 30:6: postman
33. Nehemiah 13:11: set them in their place
34. Esther 7:9: he hung himself
35. Job 11:16: It's water under the bridge
36. Job 20:6: he has his head in the clouds
37. Psalm 4:8: lay me down to sleep
38. Psalm 19:3-4: he gave me a line
39. Psalm 37:13: his day is coming
40. Psalm 58:8: pass away (dying)
41. Psalm 64:3-4: shoot off your mouth
42. Psalm 78:25: angel's food cake
43. Psalm 141:10: give him enough rope and he'll hang himself
44. Proverbs 7:22: dumb as an ox
45. Proverbs 13:24: spare the rod, spoil the child
46. Proverbs 18:6: he is asking for it
47. Proverbs 24:16: can't keep a good man down
48. Proverbs 25:14: full of hot air
49. Proverbs 30:30: king of beasts
50. Ecclesiastes 10:19: money talks
51. Ecclesiastes 10:20: a little bird told me
52. Song Solomon 2:5: lovesick
53. Isaiah 52:8: see eye to eye
54. Jeremiah 23:25: I have a dream (MLK, Jr)
55. Ezekiel 26:9: engines
56. Ezekiel 38:9: desert storm or storm troopers
57. Daniel 3:21: hose (leg wear)
58. Daniel 8:25: foreign policy
59. Daniel 11:38: the force be with you (star wars)
60. Hosea 7:8: half-baked
61. Jonah 4:10-11: can't tell left from right
62. Zephaniah 3:8-9: United Nations Assembly
63. Matthew 25:1-10: burning the midnight oil
64. Matthew 25:33: right or left side of an issue
65. Matthew 27:46: for crying out loud
66. Mark 5:13: hog wild
67. Luke 11:46: won't lift a finger to help
68. Luke 15:17: he came to himself
69. Romans 2:23: breaking the law
70. Philippians 3:2: beware of dog
71. Colossians 2:14: they nailed him
72. I John 5:11-13: get a life
73. Revelation 6:8: hell on earth
74. Revelation 16:13: a frog in my throat
75. Revelation 20:15: go jump in the lake

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't reassure me, empower me

Terrific line I ran across today which of course applies more broadly:
I make my peace with the LDS Church’s institutional sexism every day, every week, because I believe that this is where God called me to be. I’ve also been very lucky to have local leaders who understand some of the challenges that women face in the Church and try to do what they can to encourage progress. 
However, here’s the thing: no man gets the right to reassure me that I’m his equal when every single outward sign of how the Church is run tells a different story
Salt Lake City leaders, here’s a request: Stop telling me I’m incredible, and start giving me responsibility and authority befitting an adult and not a child. Stop standing up each Mother’s Day to wax on about how women are fantastically spiritual and start taking a hard look at the institutional sexism that repeatedly devalues women. (read the full article)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Objective measure of translation accuracy

So I've had this idea for an accuracy test between bibles.    The idea was to pick verses each of which has a different kind of complication and see how all the various bibles handle it.  The complications and scoring is is thought for thought not word for word, but at the same time highly detailed so it should be fair between formal, dynamic translations and hopefully going further out in either direction.  Score the various bibles form 1-5, with 2 being the "wrong answer" 4 being the "right answer" and 1 and 5 being additional penalties and bonus, and 3 being 1/2 credit.      I'm going to score both translations and study bibles on how well they handle this, because there may be (and probably will be) differences between study bibles and some translation have excellent study bibles while other's don't and availability of good quality notes matters.    I was going to do NT only so I can include a lot of bibles like The Voice, The Source, Gaus which don't usually get rated.    I also intend to include bibles from non-Protestant groups: Catholic bibles, New World Translation (Jehovah's witnesses), Clear Word (Adventist)...

And hopefully with time:

a)  Expand out to more translations
b)  Expand out to more tricky aspects
c)  Maybe move to a more random sample 3 of each type of issue

The idea being this gives something of an objective measure of "accuracy".  Here are the types of issues and corresponding verses I was thinking about:

1 Corinthians 2:6-10  dual meaning of archons of the aion, as both heavenly demons manipulating the earth, ephemeral powers  and their earthly representatives, "princes of this age".  Most bibles just have this as earthly.

2 = earthly
4 = heavenly, both or ambiguos.
5 = captures the relationship between both.

2 Corinthians 12:2 "third heaven" Venus translation vs transculturation covers this one.  Frequently bibles use "heaven" or "with God" and God simply doesn't live on the 3rd heaven.

1 = With God
2 = Heaven
4 = 3rd Heaven
5 = 3rd Heaven with an explanation of what the the term means.

Romans 6:8 (tense complexity and the Greek notion of time) (Bible translation: Ebonics and the aorist tense)
This is a tricky passage since the tenses are hard, particularly hard in standard English.  This is a key verse of great theological importance that is tough to translate, and because it is tough to translate people often just change the underlying theology.   Moreover the Greek notion of timelessness isn't really part of American / Christian culture so there is a temptation to consider what Paul is considering an act that takes place in eternity to have taken place at a simple point in the past.

2 = Simple past tense.
4 = Captures the aorist / continuing action of death in some way.
5 = Capturing the notion of an eternal act in a mythic realm rather than an act in the human realm, i.e. capturing the middle platonism of the original.

Romans 11:36 / Romans 12:2 (lack of concordance across chapter boundaries)
This is a tricky pair of verses because aion is frequently translated "world" or "age" depending on context.   Normally bibles are concordant with aion within a single paragraph or idea because otherwise it converts Paul into speaking gibberish.  But... this pair happens on a chapter boundary so translators often miss it.  Of course chapter markers weren't added until centuries later so this split is part of our tradition not part of the original.

2 = Using world & age without treating this like a single thought.
4 = Using the same word.
5 = Doing something creative so it works in context.

1 Timothy 6:20 (de-historical ideology over accuracy).  This verse is a great test because in it "Paul" makes reference to a 2nd century Christian book called the Antitheses, that the author of Timothy is hostile to.    Generally conservative translations will try and obscure this issue so the verse makes no sense, because they don't want to undermine Pauline authorship.  Liberal translators are quite often not any better.    The word Antithesis means literally Oppositions, but in this case it is a proper noun.  So a correct translation is something like: “O, Timothy, guard the precious deposit recoiling from profane and empty jabbering and the Antitheses (Oppositions or Contradictions in English) of the falsely labeled ‘gnosis’ for some who profess it have shot wide of the faith ”

2 = gibberish, meaningless comment like translating "opposition" lower case without any context.
4 = Right idea
5 = Antitheses capitalized or any explanation of what "Paul" (the author(s) of Timothy) is talking about here.

Romans 16:7 (Sexism over accuracy)  This verse is often translated so as not to have a woman called an apostle even though unequivocally that's what Paul is doing.  Here is a link to a meta article on BBB: )

2 = Cop-out, either making Junia male or dropping apostle
3 = Junia is an apostle but not highlighting Junia is a woman's name.
4 = Junia is a female apostle
5 = Discussion of this drawing attention and why there is resistance.

Galatians 5:6 (Protestant Orthodox corruption) this verse should be faith working through love.  But quite often translators want to duck any hint of salvation through work and so change this to "faith expressing itself through love" so as not to offend.  J.D. Kirk has a funny short article on this verse: Boo… Theologically Manipulated Translation. Boo…

2 = Non work
4 = Faith working through love

Mark 1:41 (proper footnoting) This is a simple verse where the textual information is split.   The reading found in almost the entire NT ms tradition is σπλαγχνισθείς (splancnisqei", “moved with compassion”). Codex Bezae (D), {1358}, and a few Latin mss (a ff2 r1*) here read ὀργισθείς (ojrgisqei", “moved with anger”). It is more difficult to account for a change from “moved with compassion” to “moved with anger” than it is for a copyist to soften “moved with anger” to “moved with compassion,” making the decision quite difficult.   Given a split original with experts cleanly divided on both sides:

2 = one side only
4 = both options

So what do you all think of the idea of objectively measure of accuracy?  Do you like the list?  Anything I should add or remove?   Most importantly does this list meet the fairness criteria?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

100 year predictions of the biblical landscape

So I figured a fun topic is what will bibles look like in 100 years. I invite anyone who wants to crack out their crystal ball to give it a shot. Here are my predictions.

 I think the idea that a bible should be “general purpose” will die in the next generation.   This in my mind is a legacy of the KJV pre Living Bible / Good News Bible tradition where the same bible was used for liturgy, study, devotion.  Translations will stop aiming to be all things to all people and instead will focus on a niche like most products do in America.  The KJV may very well survive for “high liturgy” like funerals, being treated like Shakespeare or the Old Latin liturgy of the Catholic church.  Study bibles, will no longer be based on liturgical bibles and thus can do the obvious thing of forking off both a literal and a dynamic translation marked up with notes.  Thus they will be explicating the text using a dual strategy having a literal translation at least as much so as the NASB and possibly more like a good interlinear and a profoundly dynamic translation capturing the meaning of the Greek. The concern with preserving traditional phrasing will be gone since these bibles will be made exclusively for study.   Churches will use liturgical bibles designed to be understood best when read out-loud, translation like the Voice and highly poetical bibles for liturgical functions.  The pew bible will be one of these read out-loud bibles.  

I think the fact that evangelicals, including the most conservative with the ESV, have adopted the UBS/NA text is a fundamental shift in their relationship with the bible. Evangelicals today read bibles with “some texts contain X while others say Y", or "while the majority of the Greek texts say X the Syriac / Latin says Y”, etc…. In other words a view of translation has emerged which says:

  1. The actual originals are unknown, what you are reading is an estimate.
  2. The act of compilation is active not passive
  3. The act of translation induces inevitable distortion in meaning.

That’s not a small thing. Evangelicals are undergoing what liberals did in the mid 19th century, but while liberals were having to follow a trail blazed first by radicals Evangelicals will be following the trail blazed by large institutional mainline Christianity, a much wider trail.  Evangelical Christianity is fundamentally (no pun intended) about the bible, the gospel and being born again.   Evangelicals have always focused heavily on bible study, the popularity of study bibles today which is far beyond what it was a generation ago. With computerization the amount of information in the tools used for lay study is exploding.  I think these 2 trends merge and the study bibles of 100 years are loaded with lower criticism and textual variants, made much simpler since study bibles will be computerized interfaces and not books.

On the liberal side, I think this adaption of lower criticism by the right is going to push them further to the left over the next 50 years.  Liberal bibles today are still very conservative.  I've written elsewhere on this blog how delightful it was to read a translation of John in Bultmann’s order.  Given how easy it is for a computerized book to have multiple arrangements I think this transition, a switch to go back and forth will become common.  And once it happens for John we might see arrangements in other books, like Corinthians with Schmithal's decomposition.  For the Synoptic Gospels,  given how well know Q and the documentary hypothesis is, I think we'll see the Q material clearly delineated and since Q is now such a common term possibly broken out further according to the internal structure of Q.    So while conservative bibles will incorporate lower criticism, liberal bibles will incorporate higher criticism.

This shift left by the mainstream churches will force texts teams to begin to assemble more comprehensive documentary break downs, i.e. mainstream biblical scholarship / divinity schools to go in its natural direction towards where Religious Studies professors are today.  So in terms of the UBS/NA40 (or whatever it is called) the Greek (and maybe even the Hebrew ) will present a tree view of the origins of the text (see Mack the Knife and biblical development). The books will show trees of descent, you will be able to track lines as they evolved in the 5th century from a host of sources. For example the UBS/NA Luke will clearly show what came from Ur-Lukas (Gospel of the Lord), which came from later Q additions or refinements from Matthew, which came from Mark and which came from reading the epistles back into the gospels.

As an aside, of course if divinity scholar have moved to where Religious Studies professors are today, its hard to know where these scholars will be 100 years from now.  But if the last generation is any hint I imagine they will be reconstructing the sects that gave birth to Christianity and by then people will have a fairly thorough timeline of Christianity's parents, its birth and its childhood.

Getting back to bibles, I think the debate on the canon will be fiery in 100 years. In the last 15 years we’ve started to see several bibles that are arguing for changes to the canon. Today almost no evangelical believes that Hebrews is “Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews” and it is becoming acceptable to question the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles even within conservative circles. The counter evidence is just too strong, in the same way that evolution was absolutely rejected in 1850 and considered the norm in Evangelical circles in by 1980; I believe the political nature of the canon will be mainstream.   So once 100 now the idea that the canon is essentially political in nature not religious is mainstream the big theological question will be how to respond. It took the first 200 years of the reformation for evangelicals to admit that the corrupt theology of the 16th century church really went all the way back to the 5th century and that revolution not reformation was the goal.

Today the fringe view that evangelical Christianity is free to construct their own canon rejecting the Catholic canon will be a well represented minority view. So put me down for Gospel of Thomas in at least one mainstream translation by then.    The Jesus Seminar's 5 Gospels included it in 1996 and  John Henson's Good as New which was directed at liberals in Great Britain included it in 2004 so this prediction, it wouldn't shock me if it were fulfilled by 2030, other bibles will have followed suit by 2070 though I believe in 2111 Evangelical bibles will retain their current canon.  But the debate on canon once opened will be raging, and this change will open the door to other revisions, though I'm unsure what specifically people will want since today they consider the canon closed.

So feel free to comment on my 100 year predictions or go for it and give your own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sharper Iron on voting for excommunication

A few weeks back Sharper Iron, an IFB blog, posted an article entitled Should Congregations Vote to Discipline? The details on the case are left very vague but the procedural problems were not.  A highly respected member of the church, seen as an elder / leader was accused of a offense and under went the first 2 phases of Matthew 18, an individual confrontation and then 2-3 others confirming it.  The case was brought before the pastor who found the evidence sufficient and the matter was brought before the congregation.  They did not believe the evidence to be sufficient to warrant excommunication and voted to retain the leader.  The pastor seeing this as a lack of trust decided to leave his position and found a church plant.   Ted Bigelow wrote the article above criticizing the congregation for the apparent reason of engaging in a broader debate.

Normally I'd answer Pastor Bigelow at the blog he wrote the post on but Sharper Iron is a closed blog.  I always like to notify people when I mention them here to give them a chance to respond.  I won't be able to notify Sharper Iron, so if anyone reading this is a member please post in my name a notification in the interests of fairness.  I'll try and notify Pastor Bigelow right after authoring this.

For Pastor Bigelow the structure of discipline is:
Step 1: Individual confrontation
Step 2: 2-3 others confront and determine if the evidence is true and certain, i.e. an inquest
Step 3: The 2-3 others go to church leadership to have their inquest confirmed
Step 4: Leadership informs the congregation to carry out discipline.

What he is arguing against is:
Step 4': The congregation votes on the excommunication via. evaluation of the evidence.

And he is absolutely correct that if the inquest is sufficient then this is a valid process.  But this structure where the inquest occurs in Step 2, rather than Step 2 is evidence gathering and evidence evaluation occurs in Step 3 puts tremendous stain on the 2 or 3 others.  Naive laity, often chosen for their closeness to the principles, without leadership oversight are being asked to conduct a full gathering of evidence.   That's a lot to ask.  And that's why typically Step 2 plays the role of an indictment and Step 3 is a full on trial, where evidence is gathered in both phases.

And in this case, the structural problems that Pastor Bigelow was arguing for became evident.  The pastor of the church in question found the Step 2 evidence convincing even thought he accused was still pleading not guilty and when he advanced it to Step 4 the holes in analysis of evidence became evident.  That is evidentially the congregation found the process wanting.  It appears from the article that the congregation determined that the Step 3 verification of the evidence collected in Step 2 did not meet their standards and they thus rightly refused to carry out sentence.  The pastor in this case was being rebuked for dereliction in his duty, during his Step 3 confirmation.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that rebuke, it sounds deserved.  He probably should have asked the congregation for permission to return to a more formal Step 3 process rather than resign in a huff.

Pastor Bigelow focus in the article is arguing that evidence evaluation should not be occurring during Step 4, because the information is so detailed.  And he is absolutely correct, the congregation should not be confronted with detailed conflicting evidence that they have to evaluate.  Rather what they should be doing is evaluating the findings and process that occurred in Step 3.  In other words, evaluating the trial.

And what it appears the trial consisted of was Pastor heard from the witnesses, decided the accused was lying and moved on.  There is obviously not enough detail to evaluate the information provided in this anecdote, but what I see from the anecdote is the 4 step process working exactly as intended; in this case Step 4 preventing an abuse that occurred in Step 3.   Which from the description provided sounds very much like the congregation doing their duty.

Pastor Bigelow's response,  the rest of the article, is an apology for a policy that the 2 or 3 others can simply never be questioned because that is questioning their judgement, "But a careful reading of Matthew 18:17 shows that the church is not called to a higher authority—that is, to judge the person’s guilt or innocence. Instead, the Lord calls the church to submit to the prior judgment of the two or three witnesses since they have “established the evidence...The Lord Himself placed the determinative authority of church discipline in the judgment of the two or three. He tasks them, and not the church, with the responsibility to prove unrepentant sin in Matthew 18:16.”  

The entire congregation is duty bound to fall in line excommunicate the accused based on a process they found wanting.  Given this is a fundamentalist board, this involves secondary separation so the effect of the excommunication is not just cast out the member, but to cast anyone who dares associate with the member since such a person isn't recognizing their non Christian status.    And that's assuming the congregation doesn't practice tertiary separation, i.e. separating from someone who refuses to separate from someone associated with the accused).

Given the extent of that penalty the evidence and process requirements should be simply staggering.  The idea that 2 or 3 semi-random people should be empowered to conduct the investigation with essentially no meaningful oversight is beyond irresponsible.  Matthew 18 outlines a 4 step process because the church carries the sentence and thus the church is going to be collectively held responsible for this judgement.  They are the ones in weeks, years and possibly decades to come that will need to defend these finding, defend this evidence, defend this process.    The Catholic church, centuries later is still called upon to defends its actions with respect to Galileo and Luther.  A strong case for a discipline process where the entire congregation is not involved in the details can be made.  But it is the duty of the church collectively to evaluate actions that can permanently damage the church, and excommunication is one of those actions.  I did two case studies for people who would like examples of less famous cases than Luther or Galileo (Anne Le FertGresham Machen);   but the last 60 years of Fundamentalism I think work as an excellent as well.  

I think there is a genuine lack of understand of the importance of excommunication.  Once an excommunication happens the church is going to be asking others to join them in "calling for repentance" from an accused person who is going to deny the facts of the case; which means far from having to defend the facts to the congregation the church is quite likely going to have to defend the facts to world.  He's being cast out of the congregation and being publicly identified as non-Christian by the Church.  The church has to vote because the church is passing judgement.

I wrote a post a few years back on rules for due process.  I think they make it clear how much leadership needs to be involved in an excommunication and how much "dotting the i's and crossing the t's is required".  The bible establishes a standard that no evidence can be considered without multiple witnesses.  It does not establish a standard that 2 to 3 people can bind the church and force it take action. Thankfully though the comment section at Sharper Iron mainly agrees that Pastor Bigelow's process is dangerous and unbiblical.

Now the reason I say there is confusion is when Pastor Bigelow then compounds the entire thing, arguing that anyone who expresses any disagreement with the 2 or 3 is themselves guilty of serious sin, "Sadly, men’s ways can get involved in these matters and really make a mess of things. For example, congregational voting in the case of an unrepentant member could create a serious breach of faith with Christ. What if a church decides to discipline out an impenitent member by vote, but some in the church vote not to remove him? Those who vote not to remove the unrepentant member have sinned against the Lord by establishing their own verdict of innocence that opposes what the Lord already ratified."  

This seems to confuse excommunication with anathematization.  Excommunication is to declare someone no longer publicly part of the church.  Anathematization is to definitely declare that the person is damned.  Protestants generally do not believe churches are capable of anathematizing someone which is why lines like "what the Lord already ratified" seems to indicate Pastor Bigelow believes his church is in fact anathematizing and not simply excommunicating.   If he does comment here I think this is potentially the most interesting topic though it wasn't raised on Sharper Iron at all.  I suspect because the people on Sharper Iron are protestants and so simply reading excommunication even when Pastor Bigelow uses language consistent with anathematization.  (Here is a  more detailed post on the distinction).

As far as I know Pastor Bigelow is not a national figure, he just happened to be posting an article to a heavily read website.  So as much as possible I'd like to keep this away from the specifics of Grace Church of Hartford, unless he or an elder from Grace bring this up in the comments section.